International teams lead: 3 tips for virtual collaboration

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Virtual collaboration places special demands on managers and team members. Team building, respectful interaction, clear communication channels and defined goals are essential factors. 3 tips how to get one Team on the other side of the world.

International Teams Lead: 3 Virtual Collaboration Tips International Collaboration_Time Shift

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Gerd Mittmann Gerd Mittmann_ShutterstockGerd Mittmann is Vice President Benelux, DACH and Nordics at Fyber NV


Effective cooperation

Team and project work will be in Company of every kind more popular. Because effective and efficient teamwork results in advantages for customers and companies. But more and more teams are not sitting together in the same office.

In times of interdepartmental cooperation and international projects, team members often live on different continents and still work together on a task. Thanks to new and ever-evolving technologies, it is now easier than ever to work with colleagues on documents and presentations at the same time. Thus, virtual collaboration for many is already everyday.

If the team is spread all over the world ...

It has often been reported about the benefits of intercultural teams, flexible working hours and home office work. One issue that has not yet been addressed in this context is the question of how managers and team leaders, who are often on business trips, can take responsibility for their team and their tasks while on the road or, as in my case, live in a different country than the rest of their team.

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I live in Amsterdam, but my team is spread around the world, working in New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. This kind of collaboration requires creative thinking and the full commitment of all team members. No matter how often you can visit your team and be there personally, working together in different time zones brings challenges.

3 Tips for leading international teams

1. Challenge of time difference

For internationally active teams, the question is, at what time you are updating each other and when you arrange Skype or telephone meetings. If the working hours of the team members hardly overlap, weekly meetings, which always take place at the same time, can be contraproductive. It is better to arrange rotating meeting times so that nobody feels disadvantaged. Employees should also be able to dial-in from home after work, or to make their working hours more flexible.

In addition, more meetings are needed in international teams to keep all parties informed. After all, you do not meet in the corridor or in the kitchenette when you are not working in the same location. However, the meetings should be kept short. Each team member provides a brief update of what is currently being worked on and the hurdles to be overcome. Here you should be as efficient as possible.

2. Clear targets

Since the team members usually work very independently, it is important to agree on clear goals and work together to develop a plan for how they should be achieved. So everyone knows - no matter where he is - exactly which are the priorities and who is responsible for which tasks.

Instant messaging tools such as Google Chat or WhatsApp are very useful for daily sharing. But of course they do not replace "personal" conversations - Skype or other video calling solutions are irreplaceable here. If a team member has gotten stuck in a problem, it should be possible to discuss solutions in a short phone call in a timely manner. Just because you're not sitting in an office together does not mean you're working in silos. It is essential for success that the team leader, in particular, is available to his employees.

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3. Quality Time

I personally try to be as often as possible in our Headquarter in New York and work closely with the team. This means that I do not want to be constantly involved in meetings with other managers. It is important to spend a lot of time with your team to really understand how employees think and what challenges they face.

I've noticed that one week is often too short to do everything I've done for the time. Therefore it is important to be with his team for a longer time. It is not just about answering questions about current projects, but also spending time with his team and getting to know them better.

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